Harvey Sicherman, Foreign Policy Expert, Head of Think Tank, Dies at 65


obitsicherman.jpgHarvey Sicherman, 65, one of the nation’s leading thinkers on American foreign policy and on the Arab-Israeli conflict, was president of Philadelphia’s Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1993 until his death on Dec. 25.

A graduate of the University of Scranton, Sicherman earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971. It was there that he was recruited by future Navy Secretary John Lehman into the FPRI; he later joked that he “slept with Lehman — through many a class.”

Sicherman initially worked at FPRI from 1969-70 as a research assistant, then from 1974 to 1980, as a research associate and later as associate director for research. He met Alexander M. Haig Jr. at FPRI, where Haig spent the last six months of 1979 upon retiring from his post as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.

As Secretary of State, Haig took Sicherman to Washington as his special assistant from 1981-82, not just because of Sicherman’s skill at policy analysis and speech writing but, it is said, “because he made the general laugh.” Sicherman’s position was the highest in the U.S. government then held by an Orthodox Jew.

Subsequently, he served as consultant to Navy Secretary Lehman (1982-87), consultant to Secretary of State George Shultz (1988-90) and as a member of the policy planning staff of Secretary of State James Baker (1991-92). In the latter position, he played a key role in conceptualizing U.S. policy to manage the peaceful unification of East and West Germany, in the process coining the memorable phrase “Europe whole and free.”

His books include The War on Terror: 21st Century Perspectives; The Templeton Lectures on Religion and World Affairs; and Is There Still a West?

His many FPRI essays appear on the institute’s website at www.fpri.org. Among them are his memorial tributes to Alexander Haig; Robert Strausz-Hupe, FPRI’s founder; and Yitzhak Rabin, the late prime minister of Israel.

Under his leadership, FPRI forged partnerships with think tanks in China, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Germany and Great Britain.

In his eulogy, Rabbi Abraham Levene described Sicherman, a member of Lower Merion Synagogue, as a “transmitter of Torah,” acknowledging Sicherman’s erudite commentaries on the portion of the week and on the history of Jewish thought.

Sicherman is survived by his mother Esther; his wife Barbara; his sons Max, Jon, and Zachary, and their spouses; and three grandchildren.


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